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Hell and High Water (1954)

aka Hell and High Water

Directed By: 
Written By:  Writer details not available
Details: 103 mins · English, French, Italiano, German

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Plot:

In 1953, renowned French scientist Professor Montel (Victor Francen) goes missing. The authorities believe that he and four other scientists defected behind the Iron Curtain.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Navy USS Bowfin (SS-287) submarine commander Adam Jones (Richard Widmark) arrives in Tokyo after receiving a mysterious package containing $5,000. Jones meets Professor Montel and his colleagues, a group of scientists, businessmen, and statesmen who suspect the Communist Chinese are building a secret atomic base on an island somewhere north of Japan. They must have proof, so Montel offers Jones another $45,000 if he will command an old World War II-era Japanese submarine being overhauled and follow the Chinese freighter Kiang Ching, which has been making suspicious deliveries in that area. Jones reluctantly agrees- providing that the submarine is armed, and that he is also allowed to hire some of his former navy shipmates.

The day before Jones is to conduct a test dive, news arrives that the Kiang Ching has sailed. Despite Jones's protests that the submarine's torpedo tubes have not been inspected yet, and they are therefore too dangerous to use, there is no choice but to start out after the freighter. When Montel boards with his beautiful assistant, Professor Denise Gerard (Bella Darvi), the superstitious crewmen are upset, believing women on a ship are bad luck, but Montel insists she come along.

On the voyage, they are detected by a Chinese submarine. When contacted, the Chinese are not fooled by their explanation that they are on a simple scientific expedition and fire torpedoes at them without warning. Unable to fire back with his own torpedoes, Jones dives to the sea bottom, hoping to hide there; the Chinese follow. After several tense hours of waiting each other out, Jones finally decides to surface. When the other submarine does the same, Jones rams and sinks it.

Jones wants to turn back, but Montel points out that their contract specifies that he won't be paid unless Montel is satisfied. They continue to follow the Kiang Ching to an island. Jones and Montel land to investigate, but Montel is disappointed by the low radioactivity levels he detects. After a firefight with Chinese soldiers, the patrol returns to the submarine with a captive. They learn the location of another island from the prisoner, a pilot named Ho-Sin.

During a storm en route, Montel is injured. Because he is too hurt to go ashore, Montel insists Jones take Denise in his place, since she is the only other person qualified to gather and interpret the data. Denise detects an extremely high level of radioactivity; then she is forced to shoot and kill a Chinese soldier who stumbles upon her.

Back aboard the submarine, Jones is worried because he recognized an American B-29 bomber sitting on an airstrip. Needing more information, they trick it out of Ho-Sin by putting the ship's cook Chin Lee (Wong Artarne), dressed in a Chinese uniform and beaten by Jones at Chin Lee's insistence, into the same room. Fooled, the captive reveals that the plane is going to drop an atomic bomb on either Korea or Manchuria the next day, with the blame placed on the United States, but Chin Lee slips up and Ho-Sin beats him to death before Jones can intervene.

Jones decides to go ashore and watch for the bomber's takeoff. When he signals, the submarine will surface and try to shoot it down. However, Montel sneaks onto the island in his place. When Jones scolds Denise for not stopping the old man, she tearfully reveals that Montel is her father. The plane is shot down, but it crashes on the island, detonating the atomic bomb and killing Montel. Jones recalls that Montel had said earlier that "Each man has his own reason for living and his own price for dying."